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Friday, October 5, 2007: Happy Campers School
We seem to have found our rhythm, more or less. We meet for breakfast at 7, are in the lab at 7:30, and try to reach everyone we need to talk to/arrange stuff with before they leave their desks for their days work. This morning Marcus and Bob were talking with Woody in the carpenters shop about modifications to our track vehicle and to the trailer for all our gear. Bryan was trying to make the printer work, Mindy was fighting the slow internet posting pictures to her PolarTREC journal, and Nick was making sure that housing knew when we were leaving for our field camp at New Harbor. I was making arrangements for the traverse to New Harbor; much of our heavy field gear will be hauled across McMurdo Sound rather than flown by helicopter. But at 8:45 all the FNGs (Nick, Mindy, Bryan and Marcus, the people who have not been here before) packed up their Extreme Cold Weather gear and headed out for Happy Campers School.


Happy Campers School sounds great, doesn’t it? What it actually is is survival training for anyone who will be traveling away from McMurdo. I will let Nick, who will write tomorrow, tell you the details of their experience, but it culminates in spending the night outdoors in Antarctica in a structure you’ve built yourself! This may be a backpacking tent protected by a snow block wall, an igloo, a snow mound, or a snow trench.
Buckets over your head are used to simulate white-out conditions while conducting a search for a "lost" team member during Snowcraft I training.

In the meantime, the “old folks at home” (that would be me and Bob) continued on, warm and snug indoors. I went to the Crary Lab stockroom and got all the remaining equipment we will need – the current meter, the microscope, the dissecting tools. The stockroom here is an amazing place – they will organize and provide everything you need in terms of lab supplies, from oceanographic sampling equipment to lab pens.
All this glassware is on just one wall of the Crary Lab stockroom, which supplies all the lab needs of the scientists at McMurdo Station.

Just before lunch Bob and I did a quick “skua run” Skuas are amazing birds that look like large seagulls; they will be migrating south and showing up in McMurdo in another few weeks. Skuas are pirates, they will scavenge food even if you are not done with it, and they make carrying a sandwich from the galley back to your dorm a harrowing experience. You may have seen the cartoon rendition of them in Happy Feet; they were Boss Skua and Dino, Frankie, and Vinnie. But the term skua has another meaning here, for salvaging or scavenging gear that others are done with. As people here are leaving, the set the things they no longer need out in designated areas for others who may want them, Bob and I got a lovely purple velour shirt, a bathroom shelf, extra water bottles, and a small bottle of shampoo. This last item was indispensable, since only 3 of the 8 crates we shipped down here have arrived so far, so we have no other toiletries yet.
Real skuas in front of McMurdo Station.

After lunch Bob and I attended the brief refresher course that reminds us of all the things we learned in Happy Campers School and in Sea Ice training many years ago. A quick rundown of field survival, cold injuries, communications, helicopters, how to set up a tent and light a stove, filled the afternoon. We watched the wind build out the window and wondered how cold all the campers were.
Nacreous clouds out of our office window. These iridescent clouds form when there are ice crystals in the atmosphere. Not a bad view!

The sun is now dipping just below the horizon – twilight is the darkest it will get here this time of year – and there is ice fog on the sea ice in front of Cape Armitage, hiding the route to where the campers are spending the night. I hope they have remembered to put hot water bottles in their sleeping bags and have lots of chocolate to eat, and have built good snow mounds!

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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ANT-0619622 ( Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.